MY TRIP TO WASHINGTON, DC
Last night Jane and I had a meeting with a friend from the DCCC to discuss common interests, especially races where both Blue America and the D-Trip are enthusiastic. (We all love Dennis Shulman in New Jersey, Joe Garcia in Florida, Charlie Brown in California, and Tom Perriello in Virginia, for example.) We got into a long discussion of targeting and it made me think about an article I had read a couple days ago in Congressional Quarterly by Greg Giroux that explained the Republicans' sad ROMP program. ROMP stands for Regain Our Majority Program but instead of attacking vulnerable Democrats, they are concentrating on trying to hold expected losses down to a minimum. Boehner runs the program so you can count on it having a good deal of lobbyist money but being ineptly managed and largely ineffective.
ROMP has chosen 10 likely losers they hope to shore up with infusions of cash from clueless wingnut donors. The NRCC is unable to help much because their treasurer ran off with their treasury, leaving them broke. Whatever little they had left they used in a vain attempt to hold on to Denny Hastert's seat.
Giroux points out that "Regain" in ROMP used to be "Retain." He also points out that "regain" is a bit... optimistic. Conventional wisdom in Washington is that if the GOP can hold their losses to a dozen, they'll be breaking out the champagne. The ROMP campaign kicks off with a desperate attempt to hold onto the seats of 7 of the most endangered Republican incumbents, each a Bush rubber stamp whose crazy extremist voting record is a bad match for a moderate district. The Republicans say they are most scared of losing Michele Bachmann (MN-06), Vito Fossella (NY-13), Sam Graves (MO-06), Ric Keller (FL-08, where Blue America has endorsed Alan Grayson), Bill Sali (ID-01), Mean Jean Schmidt (OH-02, where Blue America has endorsed Vic Wulsin), and the execrable Tim Walberg (MI-07, where Blue America has endorsed Mark Schauer). They also fear losing open red districts, NM-01 (where Blue America has endorsed Martin Heinrich and where the GOP is running an ethically-challenged extremist) and MN-03 (where Jim Ramstad's sudden retirement leaves them with Erik Paulsen to defend the GOP against a surging Fighting Dem, Ashwin Madia). The tenth seat, KY-03, is the only one with a Democratic incumbent and it will feature a rematch between Anne Northup, currently on a red hot losing streak, and John Yarmuth.
There is no reason to think that any of these ten districts will be red after November. But it was damn swell of Boehner to point them out to us.
At the end of the night Jane mentioned (nonchalantly), "Oh, Rahm just walked in." Earlier I had exchanged a little banter with a D-Trip employee about not bringing him along. He had promised to tie him to the tree in front of the restaurant. But Jane wasn't joking; there he was sidling up to the bar. I had seen some hugely fat pasty white guy waddling down the street when we walked from the car to the restaurant and I thought it was Denny Hastert. But it was some other hugely fat pasty white guy. But this short wiry guy with the beady eyes who had just walked in... it was Rahm Emanuel. I didn't need to look for the missing finger; I had sent Adam enough pictures of him for Photoshop in the last 3 years so that I didn't have any doubts this beady-eyed little guy was Emanuel, not some other beady-eyed little guy. Besides the DCCC people we were with started sliding inconspicuously under the table. "Oh, come on," I offered helpfully, "he won't know who we are." One of the D-Trip guys perked up. "You're right; as long as you don't mention your names."
And the next thing I knew... there I was standing in front on the bar, hand thrust out saying, "Hi, my name is Howie Klein. We were on a conference call once." I didn't mention that the call was so contentious that Chuck Schumer slammed down the phone unceremoniously after just a few minutes and that Rahm eased out of it right behind him. And that was the first and last blogger conference call either of them did. Instead I figured I'd talk strategy with him.
Now, a couple of points ran through my mind between getting up from the table and arriving at the bar. He was chatting up a nice looking young lady he found at the bar and I didn't want to get in his game. Also I've been around celebrities enough to have experienced how absolutely creepy it is for a stranger to come over and start babbling hysterically. Inside the Beltway Rahm is like... well, not Dylan or Madonna but maybe Britney or Paris. Also... I was wearing a $600 shirt and I didn't want to say anything that would provoke him into showing the world how macho he is and pulling a McCain/Renzi moment on me. The last thing in the world I wanted was to be rolling around on the floor with him the way my pal Mike Stark had at a George Macacawitz Allen rally in Virginia two years ago. Rahm is small but he looks like a dirty fighter; possibly a biter-- definitely a shirt ripper.
So I offered to help him rid the Democratic Party of bad Democrats like Al Wynn. The smile of someone used to being greeted with accolades disappeared in an instant. He was fast and he got a vaguely lethal look on his face. His jaw tightened and the beady eyes glared menacingly. "You want to take out Al Wynn!" he snarled. "No, I responded; he already got taken out. I was thinking about the Democrats who never vote with Speaker Pelosi-- or yourself-- on the important issues. I want to help you get rid of them", momentarily forgetting I had just been told that his biggest D-Trip passion this year was retaining endangered Democrats. And, wouldn't you just know that almost every one of the endangered Democrats-- from Barrow and Marshall in Georgia, Lampson in Texas to Carney and Altmire in Pennsylvania are Democrats who always vote with Bush on the contentious substantive matters. He didn't look happy; I was making a poor first impression.
Out of the corner of my eye I noticed our DCCC hosts hovering nervously in the shadows. Jane walked over and snapped a picture of Rahm and me with her cell phone. There wasn't enough light but it caught his attention and he tensed further. Then he seemed to notice the attractive woman behind the camera phone and he relaxed a little. He quickly dismissed me with another limp handshake and tried saying something to Jane who kind of looked as though a reptile she had been looking at started speaking to her. We left.